Three convicted over funds misuse

Two former bosses of the National Library and Archives, and owner of Paja Sisters Ltd, have been convicted by the Waigani National Court for dishonestly applying over K100,000.

The former director of the National Library and Archives, Jacob Hevelawa, his wife Miriam Hevelawa, and the former corporate service manager of the National Library and Archives, Timothy Numara, were found guilty on Friday for conspiring with each other to misappropriate K118,846.30 last year.

The three were arrested and charged in January 2016 with one count each of abuse of office, dishonestly applying K118,846.30 and conspiring to defraud the state of the said amount.

It was alleged Numara and Hevelawa corruptly awarded a contract for grass cutting, landscaping and rubbish removal to Paja Sisters Limited, a company owned by Miriam.

The project was allegedly paid in three lots of payment totaling K118,846.30, an amount not justified by the actual work done.

A trial was conducted against the three and the court found that Jacob and Timothy, being very senior public servants who were highly educated, abused the authority of their office by awarding a grasscutting and landscaping contract to a company owned by Mirriam.

The court saw that due to the relationship of the parties, the awarding of the contract raised eyebrows, adding that Jacob had vested interest when he awarded the contract to his wife’s company.

During the trial, Mirriam said the project assisted mothers in the Eight-Mile area earn an income for their families but none of them came to court to give evidence.

According to the Finance Management Act, at least three companies should bid for the project before one is awarded the contract. This was not done.

Trial judge and Deputy Chief Justice, Sir Gibbs Salika, said Timothy knew of Jacob’s vested interest and should have stopped Jacob from signing the contract.

He convicted them after he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that they abused the authority of their office, conspired to defraud the state and misused monies belonging to the state.

Sir Gibbs exercised his discretion to extend bail for them after their conviction to allow Community Base Correction to conduct interviews and do pre-sentence reviews, which will assist the court decide their sentence.

They are expected back in court on July 28. Submissions on sentence will be done before the court can decide on their penalty sentence.


Sally Pokiton